NEW RICHMOND NEWS: Posted May 24, 2005- A new community group is hoping to encourage the use and protection of the Willow River. The idea for the "Friends of the Willow River" was kicked around about a year ago among a handful of river lovers. Mike Kelly, chairman of the Friends group, and member Mike Reiter were two of the key figures in the group's beginnings. "Now that we're both retired," Kelly said, "we have some time to put into this stuff." Kelly said the Friends group, which total less than ten members so far, hopes to accomplish several goals over the next few years. One major project will be clearing the channel upstream and downstream in order to provide canoeing opportunities for local residents. "We want people to be able to canoe without having to get out of the river and go around things," he said. Apart from canoeing, Kelly said the group hopes to work with the Upper Willow River Rehabilitation District on issues involving water quality and runoff. The group also wants to protect and improve the trout population that attracts anglers to the area. "The Willow is a great resource that's running right through town. But we think it's underutilized," said Kelly.